A few favourite photos from 2012

Poor neglected blog – it’s ages since I uploaded anything!

Anyway, onwards and upwards. Yes, it’s a month late for a ‘looking-back’ post, but today is apparently the top day for the post-Christmas blues, so I think a few sunny pics would go down well! So, how about a few photos of some of our favourite events and trips from last year?

January

We had a family weekend in Dartmouth to celebrate Tom’s Dad’s birthday. The weekend mainly consisted of large meals interspersed with short walks! This was the view from our hotel room window – looking over the locked harbour.

View from our hotel room window in Dartmouth

View from our hotel room window in Dartmouth

February

A trip up to Harrogate to visit some very dear friends including my godson.

Harrogate tropical visitor centre

Nice and blurry for that artistic effect. Or it could have been a bit steamy in ‘Tropical World’.

March

The other end of the country for a weekend with family in Cornwall. When in Cornwall, we ALWAYS go for a walk on the beach. Note the hardy natives with their frost-proof bare feet. I think they must have anti-freeze in their blood!

Cornwall

April

The annual Old Boys v Killer Bees American Football match at the University of Bath. Tom usually gets roped into refereeing. As time goes by there are more ‘WAGs’ and kids on the sidelines (and photobombing the team photo). This photo also proves that I don’t only get my camera out when the sun is shining!

American football match

May

Tom’s birthday falls in May. This year we made an effort to organise a lovely dinner in town with a gang of friends. I booked a surprise cake for the dessert and asked them to put “Happy Birthday Tom” on it. When we arrived – early as usual, but we wanted to stake out a space at the bar – the hostess checked her list and said in a bouncy, helpful tone: “So when would you like the cake?” D’oh!

Tom's birthday

June

This photo represents a lovely day I had with some friends I rarely see. We went to the Thermae Bath Spa and had drinks on the terrace at one of my favourite restaurants. Happy Summer days.

Sunny day in Bath

Here’s a bonus photo from our June trip to Rome. This was completely spontaneous. We had a week off and were supposed to be going down to Cornwall. The weather was so awful that we were thinking of staying home; then we both got called into work on Monday…

Monday lunchtime I got online and booked the tickets, Monday night we booked a hotel, Tuesday morning we packed and left! It was great! We’ve agreed that we must plan to be spontaneous more often ūüôā

At the Trevi Fountain, Rome

At the Trevi Fountain, Rome

July

This photo was taken on perhaps the most cheering day we had in Bristol all year. After weeks of rain, it was miraculously hot and sunny for my godson’s second birthday. We went to Bristol Zoo to see the animatronic dinosaurs (and the real animals too). We all had a great time. Later on, Tom and I went into town for the Harbour Festival and then walked up to Clifton for an evening in The Albion with some other friends.

At Bristol Zoo with C; that t shirt was obviously a summer staple!

August

Our amazing holiday to Croatia. A group of 12 of us went for a week of sailing round the Dalmatian Islands and for a few extra days in Trogir. I could bore you with a hundred photos of sails against blue sky and sea, but really, one sail looks very much like another. Instead, here’s a super pic of me leaning on an rough old door.

I love old doors

I love old doors

September

The highlight of the month was Tom’s Mum’s wedding. It was an amazingly joyful day!

My favourite parts were Tom’s reading during the service (from 1 Corinthians) and Patrick’s hilarious ‘Son of the Bride’ speech. His opening line was “Mum asked me to make a toast, so I asked her if she wanted brown or white”!

Sue and David's wedding

Making friends with a newly extended family. Photo by Steve Todd.

October

Lunch with Tom’s Granny at the Inn on the Beach on Hayling Island. We couldn’t stop watching the clouds!

October in Hayling Island

November

Season of mists etc. Tom and I had several walks out in the woods to see the colours. We even went up to Westonburt Arboretum, but this one is from the woods near us at Oldbury Court. To get this photo, I clambered up a steep, slippery and muddy bank, hanging on to twigs to keep my balance. As you might guess, I then couldn’t get back down and Tom had to rescue me!

Beech leaves

Another bonus photo – this one from Tom’s phone. I like this picture because at the time I was on the phone to a friend discussing her forthcoming wedding with great excitement.

November (2)

December

In my family my Grandpa always used to take formal group photos at family get togethers using the self timer. He would set it running and then do a comedy jog back to his place, plonking himself down in the middle, usually with a hilarious expression on his face. Of course these were all pre-digital so we never knew how they would turn out!

This Christmas just gone I decided to bust out his old tripod and see if I could follow in his footsteps. The photo worked, but in flinging myself down I set the dog off!

Christmas in Lincolnshire

What a lovely year! This year promises to be equally exciting.

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Happy Anniversary to us!

I can’t believe it’s been a year already!!

To celebrate our first wedding anniversary Tom and I went up to Edinburgh for the weekend.

We got there very early and walked up to the top of Arthur’s Seat – something I haven’t done for years! Probably not since I was a student!

At the top

Great views!

At the trig point

We stayed at the same hotel – The Prestonfield – and had dinner in the same restaurant – ‘Rhubarb’ – where we got engaged. How romantic!

We had a amazing dinner with champagne and some fab wine.

I didn’t take my camera to dinner, but here’s a pic of the restaurant from breakfast.

Rhubarb

The Prestonfield is a pretty unusual hotel, the decor is famously over-the-top decadent.

Maybe we’ll go back there every year!

A personal Bath Wedding Guide

Having seen several wedding guides published in the papers, I thought it would be fun to write my own! Most of the companies who helped us with the wedding were Bath-based and all were great!

It’s also a good excuse to post some of our wedding photos, which I’ve been meaning to do for ages.

What we wore

My dress was by Allure Bridals from Victoria Park Bridal. Luisa, the owner, is really friendly, kind and patient Рeven when I had to come back a couple of times. VPB has a great selection.

My shoes were from LK Bennett, thanks to Rachel who found some white ones in the stockroom.

My sister, my mum and I all got our hair done at Bobby Mak, where the ladies did a brilliant job interpreting our various requests; we all did our own make-up.

My Mum’s outfit was from Phase Eight and my sister’s bridesmaid dress was tailor-made by a friend; she made her own headpiece: crafty!

The guys had morning suits from Moss Bros (the Bath branch, who were so helpful with sizes) and all different ties from Tie Rack.

Our lovely flowers were from Pulteney Bridge Flowers. I had no idea what to choose but Angela was an excellent guide and they turned out beautifully.

Where we stayed

Brooks Guesthouse on Crescent Gardens: modern and handy for the city centre (and the kids’ playground!) Michael, the manager, and his team went above and beyond with all my queries and especially with all the comings and goings on the day.¬†Fantastic breakfasts too!

Transport

A black cab is highly practical for wedding transport – plenty of space for dresses!

Mike was brilliant on the day – he had flowers and ribbons on the cab, a smart suit and plenty of patience!

It wasn’t till we got the photos back that I realised the number plate reads SNOG!

We also had minibuses from the very-reliable South West Mini Buses.

The wedding

We were married at St Michael’s Without of Bath. It’s a beautiful church with a very friendly and welcoming congregation and ministry team.

Charles and Caroline, who were some of the first people we met at St Michael’s, arranged for the bellringers and the lovely flowers.

We designed our own orders of service, which were printed by Minuteman on Walcot Street – they were very helpful, especially when I spotted a last-minute typo!

Our rings were from Nicholas Wylde – another fantastic local company where they really know their stuff (unlike the big chains). Philippa was really helpful when we were being indecisive!

The reception

The Bath Assembly Rooms is an absolutely beautiful venue and Searcys, the in-house caterers, were amazing. They took care of all the set-up and lots of extra bits and pieces. Everybody commented on how delicious the food was (including the special diet meals!)

My Mum made the cake – wasn’t it fab?

Wines were supplied by Averys of Bristol, Tom’s favourite wine merchant. They very kindly stored the wines we chose and delivered them over to Bath.

We had two brilliant bands during the reception. Smoochy jazz by the lovely James Lambeth during the arrival drinks:

Love the tail coat!

And high-energy party band The Hitlist (previously ‘Anthem’) after dinner:

They really went all out, and were incredibly entertaining, despite having to work with the sound level restrictions at the Assembly Rooms.

Photographer

Last but not least, all the photographs in this post are by Steve Watkins, our lovely photographer, who is based in Bristol. I think you can tell he did an amazing job Рwe were really delighted!

Many of the photos in this post are among my favourites from the day, but here are a couple more!

Thank You!

We’ve been writing this blog to say an extended thank you to our family and friends who were so generous in contributing to our honeymoon fund. We really are very grateful and we hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip of a lifetime. Thank you again!

We’re inclined to keep the blog live and use it to share occasional updates going forward, especially since Facebook isn’t used by everyone. If you’d like to be notified when we update, please subscribe using the “follow blog via email” widget (bottom).

Love from,

J&T xxx

Day 17: Homeward Bound

Time to head back to Bristol! We packed up, had a last lovely breakfast and said goodbye to Nick and Gillian. Tom placed a quick order for Gillian’s cook book as a Christmas gift for me (and very good it is too). On the way back to San Francisco and the airport we stopped to pick up some of the Death Valley skull tequila from BevMo in Santa Rosa (think Majestic Wine but super-sized!) and made our flight with plenty of time to spare.

We had a couple of days at home – trying not to fall asleep all day and then trying to get to sleep all night – before we were off on our next trip: to Mansfield for a Christening and becoming a godmother. Happy days!

The date was 17 November 2011. Next – Thank You!

Day 16: Last Day

Our last full day on honeymoon and we decided to have a bit of a touristy day and visit some of the local attractions.

The California Old Faithful geyser is a little sibling to the more famous Old Faithful in Yellowstone. Apparently, the more often it erupts, the less likely is an earthquake.The geyser erupted about every 10 minutes we were there, which made us confident we were safe!

Another timer shot from our trusty gorilla pod!

Our next stop was the Petrified Forest, created 3 million years ago by a volcanic eruption which knocked down and buried a stand of redwood trees.

A petrified tree. Looks like a tree, feels cold like rock. Curious.

Next we drove over to Napa town. We intended to visit “Copia“, which the guidebook told us was a food and wine based cultural centre and ‘visitor experience’ with lovely gardens. We shouldn’t have trusted the guidebook, since it turned out to have closed down a couple of years earlier! Apparently it was a bit of a grand design by the celebrated winemaker Robert Mondavi, but it never attracted enough visitors to be viable. Pity. The gardens still looked lovely, but we didn’t fancy trespassing and instead went to the Oxbow Public Market next door for lunch and a bit of Christmas shopping.

Followed by a wander round the [slightly run down dare I say] town centre and, for Tom, a bit more wine tasting at Vintners Collective, representing small-scale producers.

Driving back to Calistoga along the Silverado Trail – i.e. the pretty way.

Taken from a moving car!

The vineyards are beautifully maintained and frequently bordered by olive trees, flowerbeds and lavender hedges.

Back in Calistoga it was a bit of shopping for volcanic spa products and some beautiful pottery, a bit of a walk, a bit of sorting out and then a final blow out dinner at Brannan’s.

Sigh.

The date was 16 November 2011. Next ‚Äď more Calistoga photos.

Day 15: Calistoga

What a lovely time we had in Calistoga! A couple of days of relaxing in the sunshine with good wine and good food was the perfect finale to a wonderful honeymoon.

It seems to me that Calistoga is a very relaxed place. For example, when we arrived, we went out for a drink at the Calistoga Inn. We sat at the bar and watched the Monday night football. When we got hungry, we kept our seats and were able to order some excellent food from the formal restaurant next door. We like that kind of thing.

We stayed at the Wine Way Inn, which I would definitely recommend for:

  • The lovely owners, Nick and Gillian (coincidentally, they used to live in Bristol);
  • Amazing breakfasts – not the usual fry up, but interesting and unusual dishes like sausage and tomato plait, chardonnay baked pears and special muffins. It was cool that all the guests sit at the same table, like a family, so you can chat to each other;
  • Traditional, but not fuddy duddy, style;
  • Grape vine round the porch and maple trees in the back garden;
  • The ‘Wellness’ package (see below);
  • The location: just off the main street;
  • Home made wine for nightcaps!

After a good night’s sleep and a gourmet breakfast, we were ready for our Wellness package consisting of bed and breakfast, a couples’ spa session, two local wine tastings and dinner at a local restaurant.

This was Tom’s first spa experience and I think he enjoyed it. He won’t let me show you the picture of him in a volcanic mud/bubble bath ūüė¶

Instead here are some lovely rubber duckies:

Three rubber ducks in foam bath

Image via Wikipedia

In the afternoon we went for our two wine tastings at Lava Vine and Laura Zahtila. We met some very lovely and friendly people.

The Lava Vine tasting room and (in the garage) wine-making space!

Tom in the Lava Vine tasting room

Interesting idea for tasting dessert wine - dark chocolate, olive oil and sea salt.

Wine tasting aftermath

The very cool BBQ space at Lava Vine - bet they have some great parties!

One of our favourite honeymoon memories is of sitting on the terrace at the Laura Zahtila tasting room. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, we had some delicious wine, there were dogs and a cat running around and we were chatting to the tasting host, a couple who were long-term traveling around the States and some guys from a local restaurant (who we happened to bump into later that evening!)

The wine in the glass is made from the vines in the background.

NB dogs in the background!

That evening we had dinner at JoL√© – a ‘small plates’ restaurant where we ate (among other things) lamb bolognese and brussels sprouts with cranberries, squash and hazelnuts. What a good day!

The date was 15 November 2011. Next ‚Äď Day 16: Last Day.

Day 14: Alcatraz

We were impressed by our visit to Alcatraz. As a ‘visitor experience’ it’s very well done. Considering the National Parks department could probably charge a lot more without putting people off, we thought $26 per person, including the ferry and audio tour, was good value for money.

We made an early start and were on the second boat of the day in order to benefit from shorter queues and a quieter visit. The weather was stunning and we got some good views of San Francisco from the water.

Here are some views of the disembarkation area of Alcatraz island, including informal sign-writing dating back to the 1969 occupation by the United Indians of All Tribes:

The first place you come to on the cell block tour is the gloomy shower block where arriving prisoners were stripped, washed and de-loused. We were just getting our audio tours.

The ‘guide’ for the audio tour is a former guard who explains the history of the island and of the prison while directing you which way to go as you travel around the corridors of the cell block. I think some of the most interesting things were the most mundane – what prisoners ate and testimonies from the guards’ families who lived on the island. The children had to commute to school on the mainland by boat, but had an apparently idyllic childhood!

The cells are even tinier and more oppressive than I imagined. There are some you can go inside, which made me a bit nervous (having seen The Rock).

The only problem with the audio guide was that the narrator was from New Jersey and kept talking about all the prisoners who tried to ‘excape’. Tom said:

“There are only so many times you can hear the word ‘excape’ before you find yourself standing in a crowded cell block shouting ‘it’s escape, you idiot!'”

Unfortunately this led to Tom being incarcerated for breach of the peace!

A view of the cell block from the prisoner exercise yard:

It was surprising how much of the island was derelict – the large parade ground was surrounded by heaps of rubble from demolished buildings and a lot of the island was off-limits. However, some areas you can visit are beautiful gardens which is quite a contrast. The guards and prisoners used to cultivate them.

I particularly loved the agave plants in the garden areas. We’d seen them before in Kings Canyon, but these flower spikes, silhouetted against the sky, were even more dramatic and I took dozens of pictures! I still can’t get over how wonderful the weather was the whole time we were on honeymoon!

Back on the mainland we had a walk around Fisherman’s Wharf and started queuing for a ride on the cable car. Unfortunately hunger got the better of me and we had to go find lunch at In and Out burger. Afterwards, instead of the cable car, we rode one of the vintage trams back to town to pack up and head North to Calistoga in the Napa Valley.

We were rather excited to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and we stopped at the viewpoint on the other side to take some more photos.

Taken from a moving car!

Making use of the nifty 'sweep panorama' feature on my camera. Click for enlargement.

Tom spent ages trying to get a good photo of the American Flag and the California flag, but the wind wasn’t co-operating!

We were sad to leave San Francisco after such a short visit, but we’ll be back one day. And look what was waiting for us in Calistoga:

The date was 14 November 2011. Next day ‚Äď Day 15: Calistoga.